1. The Launch of the ATAF Women in Tax Network attracted over 500 participants from Revenue Administrations, Ministries of Finance, and other governmental organisations from over 56 countries in African and beyond, the African Union Commission, Regional Economic Communities (RECs), Academic Institutions, Civil Society, Development Partners including the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and other key partners, individual tax policy experts and private sector players. The Launch of the ATAF Women in Tax Network took place virtually through Zoom Conferencing on the 23rd of March 2021 under the theme “Role of women in Taxation”. The event was organised by the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF) with the support of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
2. The Opening Session was graced by the Chairman of ATAF’s Council, Mr Phillipe Tchodie; as well as Mr Logan Wort (Executive Secretary, ATAF), and Dr Amélia Muendane (Presidente da Autoridade Tributária de Moçambique and member of Council) and they highlighted the following critical issues:
- Taxation and Gender Equality are two issues of strategic importance to developing countries in general, and Africa in particular. Both tax and gender equality occupy prime position in the development agendas of nations. Tax is considered a key building block of societies and is one of the most potent tools in the reduction of the inequality gap between the rich and poor – within a country and between countries – as well as between men and women. Taxes are essential in paying for the bulk of the public services that societies rely on and governments require. Mainstreaming gender equality is essential in the development and review of tax policies and administration, as the former supports an improved livelihood, while the latter fosters technical competence.
- Tax policies affect men and women differently and the impact of tax on the different genders has not been fully examined particularly with regards to the African continent, and focused research in this regard is urgently required. The potential and existing links between tax policy and gender equality have largely been ignored in development cooperation. To promote sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction, development efforts must ensure that policy interventions in the area of taxation do not negatively affect the outcomes of gender equality.
- The establishment of the network is significant as Africa works towards meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (2015) as part of Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development with gender equality as a goal enshrined in SDG 5. This was further highlighted in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 Goal 17 in May 2013; where aspiration 6 is for “An Africa Whose Development is people driven, relying on the potential offered by African People, especially its Women and Youth, and caring for Children” and one of the priority areas is the empowerment of women and girls.
- The ATAF Women in Tax Network is an opportunity to reflect on the road ahead, what remains to be done in pursuit of gender equality and strategise on harnessing the collective energy of African women in tax related fields by targeting to boost their technical skills and to address gender equality in taxation on our Continent.
3. The meeting took note of the complexities surrounding gender balance in revenue administrations. The participants deliberated on the relatively high percentage of females in the overall staff complement of tax administrations vis a vis the small number in senior management positions or core technical areas and concluded that Countries need to consider ways to improve their attempts to achieve greater gender equality. In practice, it was agreed that national policies should be seen to reflect both the conscious policy formulation to promote gender parity, and to offer targeted opportunities for technical tax skills to female employees through agreed quotas till the right balance is realised.
4. The meeting considered the social impacts of tax policy, identifying the factors and policies that impact gender inequalities in decision-making, access to and control over resources, roles and responsibilities in households, markets, states, and organisations; as well as the elimination of negative societal mindsets. The participants discussed how African governments can ensure that tax policies and fiscal administrations are gender-sensitive (not having explicit or implicit negative bias); gender-responsive (meeting gendered needs and priorities) or gender-transformative (contributing to shifts in and transformation of gender roles and power dynamics).
5. The meeting noted the launch of the ATAF Women in Tax Network with the objective of empowering African women in tax and creating a platform for female tax professionals to meet, exchange experiences, gain exclusive insights and encourage each other to make a difference in their respective work environments. The Speakers in the Launch session: Dr. Yeo Dossina (Department of Economic Affairs; African Union Commission (AUC)), Ms. Veronique Herminie (Revenue Commissioner, Seychelles Revenue Commission) Ms. Allen Kagina (Executive Director of the Uganda National Roads Authority, UNRA) and Mr. Logan Wort addressed the meeting on the importance of the AWITN and their hopes and expectations for the Network. Participants noted that the Network would be governed by a 10-member Board made up of senior officials of institutional members tasked with developing and managing a sustainable framework and programme for the work of the AWITN. A 7-member interim Board was appointed for a two-year term upon the launch of the AWITN.
6. Participants were provided with the background of the Network as: The ATAF Women in Tax Network (AWITN) is a unique platform that represents and connects the women of Africa working in taxation with the aim of furthering discussion on the effect of tax policy on gender equality and empowering women in tax. The Network will be an association which will encourage the participation of African Women working in taxation in Government, Private sector, Civil Society and Academia. The network will:
- look at tax and gender from different perspectives, including, but not exclusively, implicit bias in tax structures, differing experiences of women in relation to tax officials, whether men and women react to compliance measures differently, the role of women in the tax administration, the informal economy, etc.
- work to improve gender balance in leadership positions in tax related organisations, by acting as a facilitator for institutional change and to identify ways of implementing that change. The network will also provide a support network at a more individual level to women in tax by facilitating mentoring and other developmental opportunities.
7. The meeting was notified of the activities to be undertaken by the Network including annual meetings, seminars and workshops, establishing a blog, annual Member Spotlight and awards, publications a barometer to measure the progress made to strengthen policies, gender balance at all levels of member organisations, strategic engagements to progress issues such as gender equality in tax administrations and systems, a Mentorship Initiative, Networking opportunities as well as a Profile Directory.
8. The participants welcomed the establishment of the Network. The participants urged members to advocate for the mainstreaming of the key recommendations into national programmes. The meeting additionally urged Development Partners to provide additional support to ensure the growth of the Network into a unique forum for research and debate on salient tax and gender issues while building a nexus among African women in tax.